As well as enhancing your overall quality of life and making you feel relaxed, massage can be used as part your symptom management plan.

As well as improving physical symptoms, some people with cancer say that having a massage:

  • makes them feel whole again
  • helps them to relax
  • helps them share feelings in an informal setting
  • makes them feel more positive about their body
  • rebuilds hope.

Research shows that massage of muscle and soft tissue does not spread cancer cells. Scientific studies have looked at the effects of various body-based practices on people having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. These studies have shown that massage may reduce:

  • pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • anxiety and depression.

Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in:

  • sleep
  • the health of the scar tissue
  • quality of life
  • mental clarity and alertness
  • the range of movement.

Is massage safe for people with cancer?

Light, relaxing massage can safely be given to people at all stages of cancer. Tumour or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs. Some people worry that massage can spread cancer cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs and nodes through which lymphatic fluid (lymph) flows. It is part of the body’s immune system. Lymphatic circulation occurs naturally as we move.

Cancer may spread (metastasise) into the lymphatic system via the lymph nodes, or it may start in the lymphatic system itself. However, the circulation of lymph – from massage or other movement – does not cause cancer to spread. Researchers have shown that cancer develops and spreads because of changes to a cell’s DNA (genetic mutations) and other processes in the body. (Reference – Cancer Council Australia)

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